Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Summer Blockbuster: Before Watchmen

Summer means different things to everyone. For kids and teenagers, it's a time of relaxation and pure bliss because there's no school. For college students, it's a time to work and maybe take more classes. For hippies it means festival season is in full swing, for water parks it means business, and for the comic book industry, it means big crossover events, and this summer DC Comics has the coolest one.


Issue #1 covers for all seven mini-series and back-up.
As reported by many news outlets, the biggest - and most controversial - of these  is Before Watchmen, a look into the world of the Watchmen before the events of the original series by Alan Moore over 20 years ago. With some of the industry's biggest names in writing and artwork signed on, DC is going all-out and releasing seven mini-series complete with an ongoing back-up story and a bookend epilogue at the end of the summer.

Watchmen co-creator and author Alan Moore has publicly stated his distaste with the new series, likening DC's actions to writing a "Bible II" without consulting God. Moore's stance reflects his feelings toward the live-action feature film version of Watchmen released in 2009 to critical and popular praise. Many of the writers and artists attached to the project have come to their own defense stating their intent to enrich the world of the Watchmen, not to sully it as Moore believes.

Each of the main characters from the original Watchmen has their own title - Rorschach, Nite Owl, Comedian, Silk Spectre, Ozymandias, and Dr. Manhattan - as well as Before Watchmen: Minutemen which will focus on the first superhero team, the Minutemen, who operated decades before the Watchmen. The seven mini-series will be released intermittently, one issue per week, throughout the summer months until they finish up with Before Watchmen: Epilogue. At the end of each issue, a two-page back-up story featuring the Crimson Corsair will run the entirety of the event and finish up in the pages of Epilogue.

Stay tuned to "The Endless Reel" for weekly coverage of Before Watchmen as it unfolds this summer.

Monday, February 27, 2012

(REVIEW) Superman #6

Written by George Perez
Artwork by Trevor Scott, Nicola Scott and Brett Smith

George Perez's run on Superman has been taking it's sweet time, creating a current-day world for Superman. While Action Comics and Justice League are focusing on the origins of characters, it's nice to see Perez giving ol' Supes the proper treatment of a standard storyline. And a rather good one, at that.

Last we left Metropolis' savior, he was acting more like a dictator than a benevolent protector - martial law and a near-murder before Supergirl shows up in this issue's opening pages. During their fight, the real Superman wakes up in orbit around Earth. Before impostor Supes can deliver the final blow to a mostly-defeated Supergirl, Clark swoops in to correct the situation. He tells his city the truth about the alien impostor and immediately leaves Metropolis before Gen. Lane's strike force arrives.

It turns out, nanotechnology is the root of this arc's events. From a world whose nanotech could repair any damage doled out to the planet or people, the 'Collector of Worlds' - who makes it into a disappointingly small amount of panel space - wanted their science to add to his own. In a narratively simple malfunction between technologies, the planet's nanotech went berserk, leading to it's connection with Superman (which we apparently don't get to see until next month's Action Comics), bringing it to Earth. Since it's memory matrix-whosit-whatsit was damaged, it tried to 'fix' Metropolis, then Superman himself by creating a replica out of nanites.

And while the last few pages sort-of just fizzle out with lengthy explanations, at least there's a Superman vs. Superman brawl to pad it out. The real value in this first Superman arc is the lead-up to the Summoning arc that's been referred to in Stormwatch.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Endless Reel TV Schedule

At the beginning of February, I posted an (UPDATE) outlining the next stage of 'The Endless Reel', which included new titles being added to the comic book monthly lineup and the addition of television shows to the mix of regularly-covered content. Starting in March, all comic book reviews - posts currently tagged (REVIEW) - will become (COMIC REVIEW)s to differentiate from the new (TV REVIEW) tag I'll be using for television shows.

Of course, unlike the monthly schedule of comic book releases, television shows take breaks and hiatuses between seasons, during the winter, etc. As much as I can, I'll be updating the TV SCHEDULE page of the site to let readers know when to expect a new review. As I don't have cable, I won't be viewing episodes as soon as they're aired. For now, I'll be posting each show's episode review on the following day after it's air date.

So, without further ado, here are the shows that will be coming soon to 'The Endless Reel's regular coverage!


Once Upon A Time (ABC, 9pm)
Based on Disney's extensive pantheon of fantasy and storybook characters, Once Upon A Time is a Lost-style serial about an evil curse that has trapped these fairy tale characters in the real world, stuck in Storybrooke, Maine, a town cut off from time. If it sounds a little confusing, it is. Much like Lost before it, series creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis have crafted a rather complex plot that weaves together events in the real world and fairy tale flashbacks that 'reformat' the classic stories into a rich, cohesive mythology that expands with each episode.

American Dad! (FOX, 9:30pm)
Of all the Sunday night animated shows that FOX airs, American Dad! is consistently the funniest and most overlooked. Stan Smith is a conservative CIA agent who lives with his family in fictional Langley Falls, Virginia. His wife, Francine, is the epitome of a trophy wife while his kids, Haley and Steve, leave much to be desired in Stan's eyes. Joined by an effeminate, costume-obsessed alien named Roger and a fish with the mind of a man named Klaus, American Dad! might have been little more than a Family Guy rip-off for it's first few seasons, but since 2008, it's been better than Family Guy or the deplorable The Cleveland Show. I mean, they did a whole episode with My Morning Jacket.


Being Human (Syfy, 10pm)
Based on the UK series of the same name, Being Human is the story of a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost who all live in a house together. Sounds kitschy, right? Well, the vampire and werewolf work together at a hospital and they rent a house - in an effort to lead a more 'normal' life - that just so happens to be haunted by a ghost, so it's not like they've formed some supernatural team. The first season followed it's British forefather pretty closely, but the current second season has taken it's own, fantastic course.


New Girl (FOX, 9pm)
Zooey Deschanel is a controversial person. Some people hate her because of her 'twee' attitude and acting style, while others love her for her work with M. Ward as She & Him and their subsequent albums. Or vice-versa. In New Girl, Deschanel is allowed to let her character, Jess, nearly explode with happiness and positivity, a natural exaggeration of her public persona. What makes the show great is how Jess' quirks affect the three guys she's come to live with. While the premise is rather flaky, the jokes are solid and the storytelling is fun.


Modern Family (ABC, 8:30pm)
I've yet to meet someone who's seen Modern Family and hasn't enjoyed it. Set up in the loose mockumentary style like that of The Office, ABC's take on a current-day extended family is loads of fun. Starring heavyweights like Ed O'Neill (Married With Children) and Julie Bowen (Ed, Boston Legal, Weeds), Modern Family gives us a glimpse into the lives of the Pritchett Families. This minimal premise sets the stage for amazing family interactions and multi-story narratives. This show has been the favorite at the Emmy Awards two years in a row now and looks to make it a hat trick at next year's ceremony.

Happy Endings (ABC, 9:30pm)
If you haven't watched Happy Endings, do yourself a favor a go find a stream of it somewhere on the internet. The 2010-11 TV season was rife with shows that focused on a group of friends, all in different places relationship-wise. Only one survived the wrath of Neilsen, and it was the best one, by far. Happy Endings is a Friends-style show about six friends living in Chicago. What makes this series different from all the others is it's rapid-fire joke style couples with increasing attention to detail and character development. Every week, it gets better and I just don't know if there even is a plateau.


Community (NBC, 8pm)
Rejoice! After a cancellation scare followed by a three-month waiting game, NBC finally announced the return of Community for Thursday, March 15. Seriously one of the best shows on TV right now, Community tells the continuing tales of a study group at a community college in fictional Greendale, Colorado. It's never really been about college, though. The show itself is a metacommentary on the television medium, ranging from sitcom satire to full-on theme episodes and alternate timelines. It's never received the ratings it deserves, but critics and fans alike know it's the smartest, wittiest, most metafictional show on TV, possibly in history. Watch it. It's on Hulu Plus and the discs are available from Netflix. Seriously, check it out.

Parks and Recreation (NBC, 8:30pm)
Originally derided as a fairly lackluster The Office copy, Parks and Recreation hit it's stride in Season 2 and hasn't stopped. Amy Poehler's mockumentary about Pawnee, Indiana's Parks and Rec. department gets better every season. Similar to The Simpsons, show producers and writers have created a whole world in Pawnee, one populated by some of the weirdest, dullest, most proud, normal citizens in the country. It's so much fun to have your favorite minor character that only pops up every ten episodes or so with a one-liner that's just too funny to handle. Also starring funny man Aziz Ansari (30 Seconds or Less), Rashida Jones (The Muppets, The Office), and Aubrey Plaza (Funny People).

The Office (NBC, 9pm)
Though it meandered somewhat through the first half of this eight season, The Office is starting (finally) to get back on track after Steve Carrell's exit last May. With James Spader and Ed Helms now - somewhat - filling the hole that the ever-needy Michael Scott left, producers and writers have been finding it difficult to balance the show's other characters and feature them more prominently. While still a great show, it hasn't hit the highs we saw with Michael.


Grimm (NBC, 9pm)
Along with Once Upon A Time, NBC's Grimm attempts to bring fairy tales into the modern world of storytelling. But while OUaT takes the serial approach, telling one massive story over the course of a season, Grimm is told in the procedural format with each episode's story coming to completion before the 43 minute mark. In Portland, Oregon, Detective Nick Burkhardt is told by his aunt that he is a Grimm, a descendant of the Brothers Grimm who wrote the seminal 'Grimm's Fairy Tales'. Now able to see the monsters around them for who they truly are, Nick must balance his work as a detective against his clandestine title as a Grimm.

Portlandia (IFC, 10pm)
Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live) and Carrie Brownstein (of Sleater-Kinney, Wild Flag) have an interesting take on America's chillest of cities. To them, Portland is a unique place, populated by the hippies, the bourgeoisie, and the yuppies. With skits that connect and characters that don't become overbearing or annoying, Portlandia is one of the freshest and most addictive sketch comedy shows in some time.


Young Justice (Cartoon Network, 10:30am)
Last year, Cartoon Network started airing Young Justice, then put it on break for six months before brining it back for a few episodes then putting it on hiatus again. Without even a full first season finished, Young Justice will start airing new episodes as part of CN's "DC Nation" block of programming. Based (really) on an incarnation of the Teen Titans, this show's Young Justice team is comprised of Robin (Dick Grayson), Kid Flash (Wally West), Superboy (Conner Kent), Miss Martian, and Artemis (Artemis Crock) with Red Tornado as their liaison to the Justice League. Excellent animation style and a solid writing staff make this a series any DC Comics fan should watch.

Green Lantern: The Animated Series (Cartoon Network, 10am)
Back in November, Cartoon Network previewed Green Lantern: TAS for their "DC Nation" block of shows that would start in January 2012. Obviously, CN missed the original mark, but Green Lantern: TAS is indeed coming back on Saturday, March 3. With Bruce Timm (Batman: TAS, Superman: TAS, Batman Beyond, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited) as Executive Producer, old-school DC Animated Universe fans should look forward to a similar art style (albeit in CGI) and narrative flow.

I hope you all like the choices I've made for coverage and I look forward to reading your comments!

(REVIEW) Teen Titans #6

Written by Scott Lobdell
Artwork by Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund

After five issues of their new origin story, the Teen Titans still aren't a coherent team and it's becoming a bit frustrating. Why did the first issue feature Superboy - front and center - when he isn't a part of the team and doesn't it look like he will be in the near future? And while Teen Titans may have coasted along on momentum for the first few months, the past few issues have been disappointing.

This trend continues with issue six. Now that Superboy has beat all of them down without breaking a sweat, it's time to move on to some awesome new storyline, right? No. Instead, we get more of a one-shot story about how Kid Flash was sped up too much by Superboy's telekinetic powers, so he's in danger of going so fast that he literally phases out of existence. SNORE! This exact story has been used in speedster stories more times than DC is willing to admit. It's a staple of speed-having superheroes, but in 2012, it's a total and unwarranted cliche that should have been avoided. Since they're not important enough for the Justice League to answer their call, the Titans call Virgil Hawkins, a.k.a. Static, though no one seems to know he's a superhero. After some scientific mumbo-jumbo, Virgil and Red Robin go to work trying to fix Bart Allen. And the payoff isn't even great! In the end, Virgil develops a suit to keep Bart's erratic speed in check. That's right comic fans: Kid Flash must wear his suit or he will die! It's such an annoying plot twist that I almost rather Lobdell had simply left Bart alone and let him keep wearing Red Robin's old costume.

Elsewhere in Titan world, we get some seriously awful dialogue between Wonder Girl and Brick Boy (alright fine, Bunker) wherein Miguel reveals that he is gay in the most blunt and unnatural way possible. It's honestly hard to read - like those moments in TV shows that are just simply too embarassing and you can't help but cover your eyes. Also, the villain for the issue was terribly unoriginal. I mean, Grymm? Seriously, it's not that hard to think up names.

So, in conclusion, we get an issue that basically revolves around getting Kid Flash a new costume and putting the kids up against a foe that isn't Superboy. Unfortunately, the issues persistent over the past few months have stuck with Teen Titans, making it more of a chore to read than fun.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

(REVIEW) Green Lantern: New Guardians #6

Written by Tony Bedard
Artwork by Tyler Kirkham, Batt, and Nei Ruffino

It's just another day for the Rainbow Rangers. After last month's rather weird foray into the...artificial solar system...this issue is all about the fightin'. At the end of issue five, we see a priest incur the wrath of Invictus, some sort of guardian god. I'll argue that they should have thought up a better name - maybe not one used as the title of a rather recent hit movie. Nonetheless, Invictus is a beast. And while us loyal readers are still nowhere near anything resembling a plot, it's fun to see the Rainbow Rangers together, slinging rings and kicking ass.

Invictus shows up to bring the pain to the ring-bearers, who he claims are "Sinners!" whose darkness can be defeated by his light. As the fight plays out, he doesn't seem to be wrong. One by one, the Lanterns fall to Invictus' power as he lays waste to their constructs. The only hint of a storyline still lies in Glomulus and his orange tint acting as a spark for violence. Invictus sees Glommy and immediately starts babbling about the orange beast and his power.

I really wish there was more to write about, but that's pretty much it - Invictus beatin' up on Lanterns. By the looks of it, next month might give us some insight as to what's going on, but for now, it's still a mystery and damn frustrating one at that. Art-wise, things are still a clean and crisp as ever. I noticed some weird coloration in Kyle Rayner's hair from time to time, but other than that, things were looking good.

Friday, February 24, 2012

(REVIEW) Aquaman #6

Written by Geoff Johns
Artwork by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado

Most characters throughout DC history have some sort of world built around them. While each publisher's universe mostly exists as a coherent setting for a majority of their books, individual characters bring their own villains, their own back stories, supporting cast and their own, unique set of problems to solve. Aquaman's "character world" is one of the most interesting. Atlantis, as a comic book idea, exists as a world removed from our own - much like aliens, only living under our oceans.

Aquaman #5 is all about the disconnection between the sea and the surface. Instead of focusing on Arthur, Geoff Johns chose to highlight Mera, Arthur's wife. In the 'New 52', Mera has never ventured into human civilization, which gives Johns a whole world - literally - to play with. Unfortunately, he chose to talk about sexism. Now, I'm all for tackling social issues in comic books. DC has a long history of making social and civil issues a part of their stories. But in this case, Johns misses the mark and it comes off as paltry. It's a bit disconcerting, on her first visit to actual human society, that Johns would immediately put her in a situation to be objectified. It's pandering to an idea that Atlanteans must have a bad impression of surface-dwellers due to bad experiences. Honestly, I'd hoped Johns would have taken a more experimental route with his Human-Atlantean relations.

All in all, it was still a great issue. Mera's show of force is so much fun to read, and Ivan Reis' artwork is fantastic in conveying the action. The water looks like it's moving and has more density than normal, facial expressions are rich and textured, while the lanscapes are subtly shaded and colored. Unfortunately, exceptional art can't save the story from being a tad boring. I'll wait patiently to get back to Atlantis' origins...until next month.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

(REVIEW) DC Universe Presents #6 "Challengers of the Unknown"

"Challengers of the Unknown" - Part 1

Written by Dan Didio and Jerry Ordway
Artwork by Dan Didio, Jerry Ordway, Ray McCarthy, Andy Lanning and Marlo Alquiza

Last month, DC Universe Presents finished up with Deadman's story, which was quite a satisfying one. This month, the book's second arc begins, highlighting the Challengers of the Unknown, a rather old DC trademark that has made a few appearances through the decades, but hasn't made much of a dent. Dan Didio - who's been working on O.M.A.C. up until now - does a great job reintroducing the mythology behind the Challengers and reinterpreting it for the modern age and the 'New 52'.

With it's new origins as a reality show gone wrong, Challengers of the Unknown (the show in the book) sends six celebrities and an archaeologist out with the show's host to brave the wilderness while simultaneously attempting to outwit the other players and 'win' the competition. Even from this first issue featuring the revamped Challs (as they're nicknamed throughout DC history), there's an obvious sense that the reality show premise is simply there to get these characters out into the unknown.

The story features Nanda Parbat - the mystical place where the revamped Jason Todd trained - as well as a giant ice monster that attacks the team as they attempt to escape the icy mountains via helicopter. It's action-packed and fun to read, both qualities of which have been exemplified by Didio over on O.M.A.C. The only problem with this introduction to the Challs is that we get very little actual background information of any character. Of course, Didio and Jerry Ordway have months ahead of them to establish this team as a part of the new DC universe.


Monday, February 20, 2012

(NEWS) Batman: Night of the Owls Event

from Batman and Robin
Coming up this summer, DC Comics will launch it's first true crossover event for it's 'New 52' line of titles. Based around Scott Snyder's current arc on Batman titled "The Court of Owls", the multi-title crossover will be called "Night of the Owls" and will encompass most of the Batman-related titles currently offered by DC.

For the past week, Comic Book Resources rebranded it's normal Batman coverage column as 'The Owl Signal' and offered daily interviews with creators who will be contributing to the upcoming event. The first article in the series featured Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and Mike Marts discussing their role in creating the prelude story to the entire event and how the Court grew into a much bigger idea than originally anticipated. The second in the series revealed that Dick Grayson would be receiving two tie-in issues with Nightwing and how Batman's former protege plays a major role in the story's events.

And the owl-related fun isn't restricted to just one time period! Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey will be expanding the Court's influence to the 1880's in All-Star Western #9. In their own interview, the writing dup discuss how they fit the "Night of the Owls" concept into the adventures of Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham naturally and how it connects to present-day events. Comic Book Resources has done a fantastic job chronicling the creative influences behind DC's first crossover for the 'New 52' and it's worth checking out.

"Night of the Owls" will extend to such titles as Batman and Robin, Batman: The Dark Knight, Catwoman, Batwing, Red Hood and The Outlaws, and Birds of Prey. Starting in May, I'll be doing special coverage of all titles related to the event. Articles concerning the event will be titled with (OWL WATCH) tag.

- Jay

Sunday, February 19, 2012

(REVIEW) Wonder Woman #6

Written by Brian Azzarello
Artwork by Tony Akins and Dan Green

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Brian Azzarello has been delivering fantastic work in Wonder Woman month after month. This 'New 52' reinterpretation of Diana as a demi-god has been a huge boon for storytelling ideas. Azzarello's unconventional take on the gods of Greek myth have been extremely interesting, and coupled with Tony Akins' incredible artwork, this book has been great. This month's meeting of gods is quite impressive, not only from a visual standpoint, but a narrative one as well. Poseidon's massive presence mirrors his domain and wrath, while Hades' eyes are obscured and he prefers to be called 'Hell'.

Diana presents an offer to both Poseidon and Hades; share Kingship on Mount Olympus with Hera as their shared Queen. While both scoff at the idea of sharing a queen, they both also very much want to rule Olympus. When Hera arrives to defend herself from all parties involved, Diana steals a candle from Hades' wax-helmet-thing in an attempt to trap Hera. It's here that Azzarello reveals that Diana's 'plan' to keep Hera on Olympus was merely a cover for the real goal. While Poseidon finds the deceit somewhat humorous, the vengeful Hades is not amused and kidnaps Zola.

While a plot twist like this might be hard to pull off, Azzarello's narrative is smooth, easy to understand and compelling. In Wonder Woman, it comes down to the minor details that really sell the story; Hermes explains how the concept of imagination is nothing more than beings attempting to understand that which they do not; Lennox's off-handed "God a'mighty" causing all three present gods to respond, "Yes?"


(UPDATE) New Season, New Ideas

Hello Readers!

And I know there are readers because the Blogger widget-thingy on my stats page tells me so. At the very least, there are those of you who stumble across my little slice of the internet and stay for more than the few seconds it would normally take to judge a humble blog. So, to you all, thank you for visiting 'The Endless Reel.' I love writing and it's cool to know some of you like reading it. Some new ideas are coming to this blog. I've been in-production now for nearly three months and I think it's high time to make a few changes!

First of all, I'll be adding new titles being covered monthly in March and May. For March, I'll begin reviewing Supergirl and Red Hood and The Outlaws on a monthly basis. I've been reading both titles since September and honestly, they've been getting better and better as the months go on. For Scott Lobdell on Red Hood, he's been taking the better ideas behind Jason Todd's troubled past and putting them to use for the character reboot.  While Todd is still a vigilante and prone to violence over reason, his 'camaraderie' with Roy Harper and Starfire serves to balance his short fuse. Over in Supergirl, Michael Green and Mike Johnson started off slow, but have since picked up the pace significantly, leading to a Kryptonian Worldkiller arriving on Earth to battle Supergirl. It's all pretty impressive. Look for both titles starting in March and going forward. In May, DC's 'Second Wave' of 'New 52' titles will be hitting the stands and I'll be reviewing a few of them for your discerning pleasure. I'll be reading Dial H by China Mieville and Mateus Santolouco, and Earth Two by James Robinson and Nicola Scott. Look for both of these titles starting in May. Now for the new part of this post.

Beginning in April, I'll be adding television shows into the mix with comic book reviews and analysis. The name 'Endless Reel' came from my original desire to write a TV show-driven blog that eventually turned into the site you're reading now. Now that I've established some base of quality and regular coverage, I'll be starting TV show coverage in April, just in time to round out the season and be there for sweeps in May and moving into Summer shows. Over the next month, I'll be deciding which shows will make the cut for weekly review. By the end of March, I'll post a follow-up (UPDATE) article outlining the schedule for TV shows. As of now, possible additions to the roster might include Community (if if ever comes back on-air), The Office, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, Modern Family, Being Human, and Once Upon A Time. 

Again I'd like to thank those of you who've taken your time to read my blog. Keep up the good work, people!

- Jay

Saturday, February 18, 2012

(REVIEW) Green Lantern Corps #6

Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Artwork by Fernando Pasarin and Scott Hanna

As DC's 'New 52' hits it's sixth month, many plot lines started back in September are coming to a close - or at least getting damn close. With Green Lantern Corps, Peter J. Tomasi has brought us to the end of his first arc. This month's issue was one of the most interesting and fun issues of the series since September. While it's not difficult to 'over-do' a character in a title like Green Lantern Corps, it's surprisingly been done a number of times in the pastThe fight against the Urakians comes to a head this month, showcasing not only Tomasi's strength at writing ensemble work, but also for Fernando Pasarin's beautiful art. Drawing tons of Lanterns fighting together, each projecting a different construct, is a difficult undertaking and one Pasarin steps up to with grace and fluid pencilling. Scott Hanna's inking isn't intrusive or loud, and his shading is exquisite.

With a crap-ton (the scientific measurement) of guns and a 'fear bomb' rigged to go off at the center of the Urakian operations, Guy Gardner's secret team goes in head first, relying on the element of surprise, bullets and a whole lot of willpower. Poignantly, Gardner observes, "...they sure as hell ain't immune to lead!" The fight scenes are exquisite and the Urakian's power-conversion system is a classic - if not cliched - human battery concept; the Urak leaders are keeping their people connected to a stargate so they can transport the Central Battery from Oa to Urak, displacing the Guardians' home as the center of the universe.

The big GASP moment came when John Stewart is forced to murder a fellow Green Lantern - Kirrt - before he gives up the codes for Oa's defense systems. And while it seemed (for a moment) that Kirrt may have been concocting a plan, Stewart realized his brother in arms had fallen. With the fate of the entire Corps in the balance, Stewart does what he believes must be done. Of course, we'll see the fallout of his actions in next month's epilogue issue.

As I mentioned earlier, it's been great learning about Green Lanterns other than Guy Gardner, John Stewart and Kilowog. Bringing in the 'Mean Machine' and including some of the better characters from past series - such as Sheriff Mardin, Hannu, and Brik - has been Green Lantern Corps' saving grace. I'm excited to see where Tomasi takes the series after next month's issue.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

(REVIEW) Batman #6

Written by Scott Snyder
Artwork by Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion

Batman is the best title from DC's 'New 52'. By and far, Scott Snyder has created one of the most engaging Batman stories in years. And he didn't even need to kill Bruce Wayne! For quite a while, DC has used a host of gimmicks to tell more compelling tales of the Dark Knight. Unfortunately, these gimmicks have quickly faded away and brought us back to Bruce, Batman, and the Gotham way. That's why the Court of Owls is ingenius. As a threat that has been operating under Bruce's nose for so long - and throughout the past 200 years - the Court is the best kind of 'evil' for a character like Batman; one that represents the unknown and familiarity at the same time.

After multiple visits from the 'Talon', a bunch of group photos through the years, and a short TV screen appearance, the Court of Owls comes out of the shadows. Broken and defeated, Batman is presented to the Court by their steadfast assassin. The Talon inquires how he should kill Batman, to which they reply "Hurt him, more." It's a haunting scene and one that Snyder nails from beginning to end. The ever-loyal Talon's complete obedience is extremely well written and the Court's own traditions are conveyed as the perverted, sadistic rituals they are. It's fantastic.

Greg Capullo has also been pulling his weight. The artwork in this issue is so smooth and flows so well that you sometimes barely notice the subtle changes from reality to Bruce's dementia. The Court's shift from suit-laced to talon-handed is great, truly showing just how far Bruce is gone and how much effort he must exert to fight back.

After hearing that the first arc of Batman would lead into the "Night of the Owls" crossover event, I knew DC was finally getting it. Good crossovers and events happen organically and come from intuitive ideas. Unlike their mega-event craziness over the past ten years, DC has opted for lower-scale crossovers that enhance the mythos of these characters instead of throwing them into unbelievable situations that are supposed to 'change everything.' And with the final pages of Batman #6, we're given a great prelude to this summer's crossover event as the Court decides to unleash their army of (seemingly) hundreds of Talons across Gotham City, all because Bruce escaped their talons clutches.

This was one of the best issues of any Batman-related books I've ever read, and it's one of the best issues I've read ever. Keep up the good work, boys.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

(REVIEW) Resurrection Man #6

Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Artwork by Fernando Dagnino

Resurrection Man #6 opens with notes from Arkham Asylum. The notes just so happen to be describing one of the two things I truly fear in life; being locked away in a mental institution with no chance of being let out. I'm not saying I'm crazy, and I know it's an irrational fear, but it's an intense phobia nonetheless. Mitch Shelley has been admitted to Arkham and has been deemed 'insane' because he tells the doctors he can't die and that he has super powers. In this rebooted DC world, the idea of individuals possessing 'powers' is a relatively new one. Thus, Shelley is kept against his will.

Featuring yet another prison break from Arkham (seriously, that place has the worst track record), Shelley becomes savvy to a prison guard taking payouts to cause riots so various criminals can escape in the chaos. It's a simple, yet extremely effective, narrative trope that writer Dan Abnett has made fresh by making his main character unable to do anything about it until he dies. Of course, most of this title's "ah-hah!" moments come from Shelley's resurrections and powers, but it's great seeing it from the perspective of a group of characters whose job it is to gauge sanity.

Fletcher, the aforementioned corrupt guard, incites a cell-break for Sumo, one of Batman's rogues, as a diversion to allow Sumo escape through the service tunnels. Before Fletcher or Sumo can escape, Shelley attacks and brings down the obese super villain. Seeing the man he's tortured for days finally displaying a semblance of power, Fletcher shoots Shelley through the temple even after Commissioner Gordon's expressed cease fire order. Deemed a hero, Fletcher takes medical leave. The final pages show Shelley going to take his revenge against the 'hero' who gambled Gotham's safety against a few bucks. It's a great, single-issue arc that really captures what the 'New 52' wanted to do; present easier-to-digest stories that could be accessible to new readers. Resurrection Man tends to hit this mark more times that not, and each month, Mitch Shelley's journey becomes more and more enigmatic.


Friday, February 10, 2012

(REVIEW) Green Lantern #6

Written by Geoff Johns
Guest Artwork by Mike Choi and Alex Sinclair

I just don't know how I feel about Sinestro slinging a green ring again. As the focal point of Geoff Johns' first arc for Green Lantern under the 'New 52' banner, Sinestro's re-admittance into the Green Lantern Corps has been a fairly enjoyable ride. It shouldn't be so much fun seeing Hal Jordan reduced to Sinestro's sidekick, yet Johns has been consistently pulling it off. Yet, this month, we see almost no interaction between the two titular protagonists.

To begin, readers are treated to Hal Jordan: Street Fighter. Without any ring (of any sort), Hal must stop injustice with only his fist and his wits. This is the kind of 'character development' that becomes surreal very quickly. Hal Jordan hasn't gone a day without wearing green in a long, long time. It's a little odd that he's so adept at hand-to-hand combat after relying on a weapon for years. Fortunately, the laissez-faire approach Johns takes with reality carries the sentiments behind Hal's actions; he finally recognizes that he can still be a hero without being 'super.'

Across the universe, Sinestro is tracking Lyssa Drak, a member of the Sinestro Corps (are they still calling it that?) whom Sinestro...just...wants to track down? It's a little frustrating that Johns omits any reason for Sinestro's actions. Logically, he's looking for rogue Sinestro Corps members, but it's still annoying that there isn't any narrative affirmation. Sinestro tracks Drak to Ogoro, a somewhat backwater planet whose hero, Starstorm, surrendered to Sinestro some years earlier. Starstorm's cowardice made him a pariah to his people, and a rather pathetic character when met by Sinestro in the present.

But the real meat of Green Lantern #6 comes when Sinestro tears a page from the Book of Black, the prophecies of the Guardians kept secret since the beginning of time. (true fans - DC's Blackest Night event was based on the prophecies within the Book of Black.) In a single, full-page panel, Sinestro - and by proxy, the reader - sees fleeting scenes of horrific events to come, including Hal's death by Black Hand, Sinestro claimed by the Indigo Tribe, and the destruction the Green Lantern Corps. A white power ring can be seen near the bottom of the page, apparently in the hands of Ganthet.

And just like that, Geoff Johns starts reeling me back in! If these premonitions are a window into future Green Lantern arcs, it's going to be an exciting road for Green Lantern fans.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

(REVIEW) Batman and Robin #6

Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Artwork by Patrick Gleason

Oh, Damian Wayne. What a weird character. Maybe it's because he debuted as Robin at one of the only times in the last 10 years that I wasn't regularly reading comics, or maybe it's just his attitude, but the kid's an oddball, to say the least. Of course, he's be written as a weirdo. Born and raised by Talia Al'Ghul, trained as an assassin his whole (ten years of) life. That kind of childhood is bound to leave a mark. But the real focus of this first arc of Batman and Robin hasn't been Robin, per se. While Peter J. Tomasi has done a stellar job penning the awkward relationship between Bruce Wayne and his son, this arc's been all about everyones daddy issues. The primary relationship, that of Bruce and Damian, is only a lingering idea behind all of this issue's events, as Batman and his Robin don't get any shared panel space.

Damian has teamed up with Morgan Ducard, forced to kill an ambassador Ducard claims has ties to human trafficking. While the tension surrounding Damian's decision to pull the trigger pretty much fade away when he fires nothing, Ducard makes his deceptive nature truly known (like trolling the planet killin' Batman Inc. members and dressing up as a character from Neon Genesis Evangelion wasn't enough). Normally, I'm not a fan of random historical exposition to back-up a story-in-progress, but Bruce's time with the Ducards father and son works a rich story with minimal detail and drag.

By the end of the issue, Damian reveals that he's been playing both Bruce and Ducard! Using his past to solidify the believability of his leaving Wayne Manor, and using his shaky relationship with Bruce to leverage Ducard's trust. It's a brilliant plot twist, one that could have been written much more lazily. Tomasi has done a great job keeping the story engaging while not burning out readers with constant action or pages of expository dumps.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

(REVIEW) Justice League International #6

Written by Dan Jurgens
Artwork by Marco Castiello and Vincenzo Acunzo

Dan Jurgens' work on Justice League International has been simply stunning. For a title that could have (and by all rights should have) been a huge disappointment, Jurgens has instead taken a more intimate route with the team of misfit superheroes. With Booster Gold under his belt of creator trademarks, Jurgens understands the social and political implications of superheroes and their place in the grander scheme of the universe. Instead of attempting to make JLI as much of a hard-hitter as, say, Justice League-proper, Jurgens knows where these characters exist on the popularity scale. That's why he's crafted such an excellent tale for them, with Booster Gold at the center.

The alien Peraxxus and his attack on Earth are secondary elements of Justice League Internationl's first arc. While three issues are dedicated to their various skirmishes, the true meat of the this story comes from the character relationships. Andre Briggs is trying to create a team of heroes that the United Nations - and by extension the world - can trust and hold accountable, something they cannot do with the Justice League. The heroes he's chosen are not the best; he knows it, they all know it and his superiors know it.

This sixth issue has been my favorite yet. Heavy on dialogue, most of the issue focuses on Booster convincing the UN Security Council that the JLI is worth it, that they have worth and value to the world. By the end, Booster is ready to solider on as team leader, with or without the UN behind them. It's a pretty great couple of pages with some great character development for Booster Gold. I've always liked Booster (and Blue Beetle Ted Kord) because they're the underdogs. They try so hard and fall so much harder each time. Fortunately, Jurgens is able to somewhat 're-invent' Booster in the pages of Justice League International, giving him a bit more selflessness and making him less silly.


(REVIEW) Action Comics #6

Written by Grant Morrison
Artwork by Andy Kubert and John Dell

In the six issues so far released for Action Comics, Grant Morrison's work has been exceptional. Issue #5's weird - and seemingly unprovoked - jaunt through the past being the exception, Morrison has really been stepping it up for one of DC's most iconic titles.

In this sixth issue, we find our titular hero still sifting through the time-travelling fudge-ups that have led to the involvement of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Morrison takes a few panels to pound in the idea that superheroes only arrived half a decade ago. "Down there, right now, the word superhero has just come into existence," explains Superman to the surprise of no one. I get that DC is trying to drive home the structural integrity of it's new universe, but making Superman come out and literally tell the reader what's going on? That's a bit much, even for Morrison.

Fortunately, the rest of the issue is spent giving us a sort of "crash course" in new-Superman's character history. We get to see the Legion's visit to a teenage Clark Kent kept in-continuity, which was a good choice considering DC has two Legion-based titles on the 'New 52' roster. This is the first we've seen of 'New 52' Lana Lang and Pete Ross, as well as a great few pages where Clark gives his childhood farm to a family in need. Apparently, the Kent's are dead by the time Clark goes to Metropolis. And while the purpose of all these flashbacks and time travel gets somewhat lost in a convoluted plot (from Grant Morrison?!?! REALLY???), the main sentiment is conveyed, leaving readers with a satisfying dose of Superman mythos.

Andy Kubert and John Dell's art is fantastic. The Kubert family is known for bringing excellent work to the table and Andy's work in Action Comics is no different. Full of emotion, believable body movement and that near-unexplainable 'comic book feel', Kubert's art is a good match with the 'New 52's younger iteration of the Man of Steel.

Overall, I was much more impressed with this issue than the last. Simply put, I'm excited to read the next issue, which is one of the main goals a single issue should achieve.